Getting older is unavoidable. Year after year, your birthday rolls around, and with it, your body slowly loses its ability to recover after an injury. Life expectancy continues to increase due to medical advancements, including the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, enhanced use of antibiotics, and increased knowledge of the importance of proper mobility and nutrition.
Because of these improvements and the promotion of longevity, it is increasingly important to take care of your body so that it can stay healthy and heal effectively. Regenerative medicine is beginning to play a larger and larger role in geriatric healthcare, and the many available treatment options help to increase your body health and strength to maintain your independence and continue enjoying the things you love to do.
Regenerative Medicine Therapies
There are a variety of regenerative medicine therapy options available that can help prevent muscle and joint breakdown, promote tissue healing and regeneration, and reverse the aging process. So we thought it would be helpful to touch base on the ones we offer here at South West Spine and Sport. Stem cells that we extract from your bone marrow and fat cells have the ability to create new bone, cartilage, muscle, and other tissues all over your body.
Muscle cells have the innate ability to replicate and produce new skeletal muscle cells to help improve strength and repair damaged tissue. However, these abilities begin to fade over time, making muscles more prone to injury and degeneration. This can lead to reduced quality of life and increased risk for future injury and disability.
Luckily, researchers have found a protein that may be one of the primary causes of the decline in muscle cell function. This protein is known as the GAS1 protein, and it is encoded with a gene that prevents new growth. The GAS1 protein is found in some muscle cells in younger individuals, but it is present in the cells of most everyone in older generations. To determine the effect of this protein, researchers inserted it into the cells of younger cells and noted significant degeneration. It was also noted that GAS1 inhibits another protein as well, known as RET, which plays a critical role in stem cell renewal.
After finding the primary culprits, researchers then determined that the GDNF protein directly inhibits the RET protein. To confirm their findings, GDNF was injected into muscle cells with both GAS1 and RET, and muscle stem cell function was significantly improved. This finding demonstrates that age-related muscle strength and function decline can be reduced, opening the door to future regenerative medicine therapies.
Arthritis is a debilitating joint disease, and osteoarthritis is the most common form. This condition affects the cartilage in joints, primarily in the hands, knees, and hips. Currently, no drugs that treat this condition are approved by the FDA. However, research is pursuing options to treat osteoarthritis and reduce cartilage degeneration.
The primary method of these potential drugs is by targeting growth factors. Growth factor 18 is the precursor to fibroblast cells, which create new cartilage cells. One drug increases the concentration of this growth factor, and over a five-year trial, increased cartilage thickness was seen after two and three years.
Another growth factor that stimulates cartilage growth and reduces its breakdown is growth factor beta-1. This growth factor has been isolated so that it can be directly injected into the damaged joint, and a 100-person study demonstrated that those using the drug had improved knee function and reduced pain. While these drugs are not yet FDA approved, there is a lot of potential for future regenerative medicine treatment options that can help to relieve arthritic pain and reverse the joint damage it causes.
For years, researchers have been working to figure out a way to reduce the aging process altogether. While there are a number of factors that affect aging, one that continues to gain traction relates to telomeres. Telomeres are found at the end of each chromosome, and they help to prevent damage to the chromosome. Over time, telomeres can decrease in length, making chromosomes and cells more prone to damage.
In order to combat this, researchers have been attempting to figure out a way to lengthen telomeres. Currently, there are many different strategies for pursuing this. Promising results have been seen in testing on both humans and mice, as cell replication has been shown to increase and telomerase activity has been stimulated. Both show promise in their ability to slow the aging process, improve your overall health, and increase your longevity.
While the age-related decline is seemingly unavoidable, regenerative medicine is at the forefront of tissue healing. This type of therapy can help regenerate bone, muscle, and cartilage tissue by stimulating stem cells in the affected area. They can also help reverse the aging process, improve tissue healing, and increase your quality of life.